A somber Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law a controversial measure to expand taxpayer-subsidized abortions, drawing unusually sharp criticism from fellow Republicans who accused him of breaking his promise to veto the bill.
Tensions between the moderate governor and conservative lawmakers had bubbled behind the scenes for months on the abortion bill and other issues, but Rauner’s decision to sign the bill put those differences on public display. Conservative Republicans called Rauner an incompetent, failed governor destined to serve only one term.
While Cardinal Blase Cupich was more measured in his comments, he, too, noted that Rauner “did break his word.”
Rauner, who has long supported abortion rights, said that in the end, he has “to be consistent with my values.”
“I also believe that no woman should be forced to make a different decision than another woman would make purely based on her income,” he said. “I believe that a woman living with limited financial means should not be put in the position where she has to choose something different than a woman of higher income would be able to choose.”
The new law expands taxpayer-subsidized abortions for women covered by Medicaid and state employee insurance. The state already covers abortions in cases of rape, incest and when there is a threat to the health and life of the mother. The law expands the Medicaid coverage beyond those limited cases. Illinois Right to Life, which opposed the bill, projected that the measure could mean 12,000 additional abortions per year. Another group, however, put the figure at 3,800 a year.
The expansion of public funding for abortions is opposed by those who say it violates a longstanding principle that taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a procedure that they might oppose on moral or religious grounds. But supporters of the legislation say the limits on abortions for women who are covered by Medicaid or state employee insurance create unfair burdens and hurdles.
In addition, the law would prevent a trigger in current Illinois law that abortion rights supporters contend would make the procedure illegal in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
The Democrat-controlled legislature passed the bill on May 10, but did not send it to Rauner until Monday. That created a pressure-cooker environment surrounding the legislation, with Rauner facing an…